May is National Stroke Awareness Month. How much do you know about a stroke?
Like, what is it, how is caused, who is more likely to suffer a stroke? What are its signs and symptoms, how is it diagnosed and treated, and is there a way to prevent it? With this post, we want to spread stroke awareness by helping you understand a bit more about the condition, so next time, you can answer all of those questions and more.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke is a life-threatening, emergency medical condition. It takes place because there is no blood supply to parts of the brain. It is a medical emergency, and as such, the patient should be given urgent medical attention. The longer the patient waits to receive the required medical treatment, the more extensive the damage of the stroke will be.
What Causes a Stroke?
A stroke can be a result of varying factors.
- The first possible cause is a blocked artery. It leads to what is called an ischemic stroke. It is the most common form of stroke. The artery typically gets blocked by fat, blood clots, and other materials.
- The second possible cause is the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel, and it causes a hemorrhagic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke can be a complication of several conditions and factors. These include trauma, such as an accident, uncontrolled high blood pressure, overuse of medication that thins the blood, etc.
- In many instances, persons may suffer temporary blood flow disruption (can last as little as five minutes) to the brain. In this case, it is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). It’s often referred to as a ministroke
Risk Factors of Stroke
There are numerous factors that can account for and increase the risk of getting a stroke. Some of these are age, race, and sex. There are also:
Lifestyle risk factors
- Physical inactivity
- Alcohol and drug abuse
Medical risk factors
- High cholesterol
- Sleep apnea
Signs & Symptoms
- Difficulty speaking
- Numbness of the leg, face, or arm
- Challenges seeing in one or both eyes.
- Difficulty walking
Diagnosing & Treating Stroke
Diagnosis is normally done using imaging tests, such as CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds. The emergency medical team will also perform a complete physical examination and an echocardiogram.
Treatment is dependent on the type of stroke, the cause, and the part of the brain affected. Typically, strokes are treated with medications that prevent and dissolve blood clots. Management can also include decreasing and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In extreme cases, surgery is used to remove blood clots and reduce brain swelling.
Preventing a Stroke
The preventative regimen for stroke includes exercising regularly, reducing alcohol intake, and avoiding illicit drugs. You should also eat healthily by avoiding excess salt, sugar, and fat. Smoking cessation is also another ideal approach. By practicing these simple steps every day, you can significantly reduce your risk of having a stroke.
Now that we have provided you with a complete summary of everything stroke-related, we encourage you to practice the preventative measures and guide others in doing so. If you have loved ones who have already had strokes, you can use this information to better understand how to care for them, and more importantly, you can readily identify if someone is having a stroke. Early identification will minimize the potential damage.
NHS Choices. (2021). Overview – Stroke. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stroke/#:~:text=A%20stroke%20is%20a%20serious,damage%20is%20likely%20to%20happen.
Stroke – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic. (2021). Mayoclinic.org; https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stroke/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350119